The P-8A is a fundamental element of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy. Together with the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft Systems(UAS), the P-8A aircraft will replace the AP-3C Orions which are due for withdrawal in 2018-19.
The P-8A Poseidon uses advanced sensors and mission systems, including an advanced multi-role radar, high definition cameras, and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of Air Force’s current AP-3C Orions.
The Government has committed to acquiring a total of 15 P-8A Poseidon aircraft. 12 P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft have been approved for acquisition with an additional three aircraft subject to normal Government Defence acquisition approval processes, including the timeframe for delivery.
The first aircraft arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016, with the remaining 11 aircraft to be delivered by March 2020. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the first eight P-8A's is scheduled for the period 2017 - 2020.
Like the AP-3C Orions preceding them, the P-8A Poseidon’s will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh.
The P-8A is built from the ground up as a military aircraft. It is based on the proven commercial designs of Boeing’s 737-800 fuselage, but is substantially structurally modified to include a weapons bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons, as well as increased strengthening to allow for continued low level (down to 200ft) operations and high angle of bank turns.
The P-8A aircraft have an extensive communications suite that includes radios and data links across the VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM spectrums. An internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes, gives the P-8A the ability to remain on station conducting low level anti-submarine warfare missions at a distance of greater than 2,000 kilometres from base. The P-8A will be compatible for air-to-air refueling with the KC-30A MRTT.
Australia has fully qualified aircrew and maintenance instructors on the P-8A working side by side with the US Navy at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The first cadre of three maintenance teams and three aircrews commenced training in April 2016 and are expected to graduate in November 2016, to align with the first aircraft delivery.
The first Australian pilot flew a P-8A on 14 April 2015, undertaking a four-hour sortie around the Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, USA.
Plan Jericho is the Chief of Air Force’s plan to transform Air Force into a fighting force that capitalises on the high technology systems that are being introduced in the next few years. Under Plan Jericho, Air Force will develop and evolve new operating concepts, support arrangements and sustainment processes to best exploit the P-8As capabilities when operated with the MQ-4C Triton UAS as part of an integrated Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Family of Systems.
Plan Jericho will deliver an integrated system for the P-8A to operate within that is more agile, has an extended reach, hits harder, gathers more information and distributes that information more quickly than ever before.